YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Official ceremonies and church services on Sunday in Armenia’s north-west region marked the ninth anniversary of a devastating earthquake that left more than 26,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands without shelter.
An official delegation headed by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly–Ara Sahakian–and a group of senior clergy of the Armenian Apostolic Church laid wreaths at a memorial to the Dec. 7–1988 earthquake victims in the largest regional town of Gumri–150 kilometers north-west of Yerevan.
Contrary to the promises made by the Soviet government that the earthquake zone will be rebuilt in two years–only about 40 per cent of all houses and apartmen’s have been rebuilt to date. Most of the restored housing are in rural areas–and there are currently some 18,000 families in Gumri–two thirds of its population–who reside in rickety iron huts devoid of basic utilities.
A senior government official told RFE/RL on Sunday that the government has developed a plan whereby the earthquake zone will be completely reconstructed by the year 2001.
According to him–$500 million is needed to implement the plan.
Meanwhile–the leader of Armenia’s opposition National Democratic Union Vazgen Manoukian told RFE/RL that "it will be very difficult to solve those problems unless we become a normal state."
A NDU delegation led by Manoukian also participated in the Sunday ceremonies.